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Corona Competition : 2 Small Magazines Find Town May Be Big Enough for Both

August 25, 1986|BARRY S. SURMAN | Times Staff Writer

CORONA — They may not be as erudite as the New Yorker, as influentialas Time or as elegant as Architectural Digest, but two small magazines have found success in this medium-sized bedroom community.

By relying on tiny staffs, modern technology and the publishers' personal labor and connections, these two competing magazines have managed to float in the same rough seas that recently have swallowed city and business magazines in neighboring Orange County.

Corona This Month is published by Peter Fischetti, former editor of the local daily newspaper. Corona-Norco Community Business Magazine is owned by S.R. (Al) Lopez, a consultant and mayor of Corona.

Fischetti and Lopez want their magazines to encourage local residents and businesses to do their shopping in Corona. Both talk about covering community events that the newspapers miss. Both say they have been surprised by the depth of the local pool of advertisers.

But their rivalry isn't always friendly.

Lopez complains, for example, that although he often appears in Fischetti's photographs of ribbon-cutting ceremonies and business open houses, his name never appears in print. "I've never had a need to put his name in mine," Lopez conceded, "but he's not the mayor."

The mayor also finds fault with the fact that Corona This Month is the "Official Publication of the Corona Chamber of Commerce," even though it's published for Fischetti's profit.

Lopez, who had been putting out his quarterly magazine for a year before Fischetti began in January, believes the official designation constitutes an unfair advantage. It's like giving a stamp of approval to only one bank or one car dealer, he said. "The chamber shouldn't go around stamping one business over another. We should all be supported."

But Fischetti "really made us an irresistible offer," explained Carol J. Callo, executive vice president of the Corona Chamber of Commerce. "He does all of the work . . . writing, advertising, distribution."

"By going with Peter," Callo said, "we have saved money, besides greatly improving our image. . . . Not a month goes by that someone doesn't call or send a note saying what a great magazine it is."

Built-In Base

For its part, the chamber's sanction gave Corona This Month a built-in base of readers and potential advertisers, Fischetti said.

The magazine has grown from 32 to 80 pages in just eight months, and "there's so much growth going on here, I haven't come near the potential" for advertising or editorial content, Fischetti said.

Corona This Month includes columns by local attorneys and legislators, articles on taxes and investments, and profiles of Corona businesses. But it also features recipes, a family counselor's column and an increasing number of stories on homes, life styles, travel and recreation.

In Lopez's magazine, a reader is more likely to see an article promoting a business on one page and the same company's advertisement on the next. His most recent issue includes three stories that focus on the same businesses that advertise on nearby--or even the same--pages.

Corona-Norco Community Business Magazine, Lopez said, is a "classy" version of a free-delivery shopper. Its editorial goal, he said, is "to highlight community events and highlight people that are not normally in the newspaper."

Both publishers distribute about 2,000 copies of each issue and, topping off at $300 for a full page, their advertising rates are virtually identical.

In contrast to Corona's magazines, magazines in some Orange County communities have come and gone in the past year, despite their communities' broader commercial bases and larger populations.

Ad Dollars Not There

A 2 1/2-year-old Orange County business magazine, the Liberty Street Chronicle, also stopped publishing in March. Advertising revenue did not keep pace with the magazine's production and payroll expenses, one of its owners said.

Anaheim City Magazine stopped publishing in January after just seven monthly issues, said Alan Mertan, its former editor. "I wasn't there when it folded, but my understanding is that the ad dollars were simply not there," he said.

Santa Ana Magazine first appeared in August, combining the contents of several official city publications with household tips, self-help columns and positive feature stories. The magazine closed its doors and its publisher filed for bankruptcy in March, despite a promised city subsidy of up to $300,000 over two years.

Corona's magazines survive, however, partly because they keep their costs low.

Lopez hires typesetting and printing firms to help publish his magazine and only recently hired two people, on commission, to sell advertising space.

The result, he said, is that the magazine is "carrying its weight." As evidence of its profitability, he said, "I'm going on my second year and I'm planning to expand it," possibly by increasing its publication schedule to six issues a year or by widening its coverage to include Rancho California and Lake Elsinore.

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